The rebuilding Marlins have given the defending World Series champions all they can handle through the first three games of a four-game weekend set at AT&T Park, and the Giants find themselves needing something big from ace Matt Cain in Sunday's finale.
Miami won two of the first three games of the series, only losing Saturday's game after taking it to extra innings, and that means it's on Cain to bring home a series split for the Giants. The Marlins will counter with fireballing 23-year-old right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, making his second start since being reinstated from a stay on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury.
The Marlins came close to putting themselves into position for a sweep Saturday, but the Giants' 11-inning victory snapped a remarkable nine-game losing streak to the Marlins at AT&T Park. It was their first home victory over the Fish since July 28, 2010.
In his last three starts, Cain has looked a lot more like the pitcher the Giants have come to rely upon as their ace, pitching 20 2/3 innings and allowing just three earned runs. In Cain, the Marlins know they're up against one of the National League's best.
Eovaldi, on the other hand, is a bit more of an unknown factor for the Giants, but they already know one thing for sure: He throws hard. In his first outing of 2013 against the D-backs, his fastball averaged 96.9 mph, according to FanGraphs.com, and he maxed at 99 mph.
"I'm not going out there trying to throw as hard as I can -- 100 percent full-out," Eovaldi said. "I'm not trying to overdo it. I'm going out there trying to compete. I guess the ball is coming out a little easier. I feel like my timing is right. I feel if my timing is right and my mechanics are right, good things will come."
Eovaldi, who continues to do extensive work to strengthen the shoulder, has never faced the Giants as a member of the Marlins. But he did so while he was with the Dodgers last year before he was traded to Miami. On July 25, 2012, he gave up eight runs on 10 hits in five innings in a loss.
Cain, meanwhile, is 4-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 11 starts against the Marlins in his career, posting quality starts in 10 of those.
Marlins: Lineup vs. lefty has its day
Justin Ruggiano has been getting more starts against left-handed pitching for Juan Pierre, and he started in left field and led off Saturday against left-hander Barry Zito, going 0-for-5. Jeff Mathis started behind the plate Saturday while the left-handed-hitting Rob Brantly sat. Mathis went 1-for-3.
Against the right-hander Cain, Pierre has a 4-for-25 mark with no extra-base hits, incidentally, one of just six Marlins with prior experience against Cain. Giancarlo Stanton has fared the best, going 3-for-12 with a pair of homers.
• Henderson Alvarez, on the disabled list all season with right shoulder inflammation, is pitching Sunday in a rehab start for Double-A Jacksonville.
Giants: Returning to health
Shortstop Brandon Crawford returned Saturday for his first game since spraining his fingers earlier this week, going 0-for-4 but contributing a few nice defensive plays, including a sliding catch down the left-field line.
Meanwhile, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said outfielder Andres Torres was available as a pinch-hitter Saturday but didn't use him after Torres bruised his knee Friday.
Also, Sunday could be the last game the Giants are without Pablo Sandoval. If all goes well on his rehab assignment at Class A San Jose, he will join the team Monday in Los Angeles.
• Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison's first big league hit came in 2010 at AT&T Park against Matt Cain.
• The Giants wrap up their seven-game homestand before heading on the road to meet the Dodgers and Rockies, two NL West rivals, followed by a four-game set in Cincinnati that will complete an 11-day, 10-game road trip.
• The Marlins are 3-3 on their seven-game trip to Arizona and San Francisco. After an off-day Monday, they'll host the Twins for two games and then the Padres for four.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.